After a month in the big leagues, the return to the Bisons was a disappointment. Kevin Pillar knew he had two choices – sulk or make the most of it.
And if he’s going to prove people wrong, if he’s going to earn his everyday Major League role, then he has to take advantage of every opportunity, regardless of what level he’s at.
Sunday afternoon, Pillar belted a two-run home run to cap Buffalo’s three-run third inning as the Bisons defeated the Rochester Red Wings, 3-2, at Coca-Cola Field.
It was the continuation of the hot hitting streak the outfielder has been on since returning to the Bisons.
Pillar was promoted to Toronto on May 13 when Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus suffered a right hamstring injury. Two days later Rasmus was put on the disabled list and Anthony Gose was called up with the duo platooning the center field position for the Jays.
Pillar played in 24 games for the Blue Jays, batting .243 and driving in two runs.
Since returning to the Bisons on June 12, Pillar has batted .404 in 11 games with seven of those games featuring multi-hit performances. His 20 doubles lead the Bisons and rank second in the International League.
“It’s just a mind-set,” Pillar said. “I wasn’t able to play every day up there.
“I could have gone one of two ways. I could be upset about it or make the best of it and take advantage of getting at-bats every day. Whether I have a good day or a bad day, knowing I’m going to be in the game every day and just fine-tuning my approach.”
The 25-year-old was drafted in the 32nd round by the Blue Jays in 2011. He played Single-A ball in 2012 and started 2013 in Double-A New Hampshire before being promoted to the Bisons. He made his Major League debut on Aug. 14 but started this season back in Triple-A.
“He’s a really good baseball player who knows how to hit, knows how to play,” manager Gary Allenson said. “He’s been on a mission since he signed to prove everybody wrong, that they made a mistake drafting him so low. As long as he keeps that attitude, even once he gets established, I don’t think it will be problem. He’s a guy who is going to help a team win.”
He’s helped the Bisons win and break out of their June slump.
The Herd has now won five of the last six games and the offense has started to come alive.
“You’ve just got to play the city you’re in that day … just buy into being here,” Pillar said. “It’s easy for me to come back here. A lot of my friends are here. A lot of my good friends are here. They were going through their struggles a little bit and I just wanted to be a part of contributing to getting them back on a winning streak and try to get back in the division.”
While Pillar has seemingly embraced the process, it might lead him back to Toronto sooner rather than later.
The Blue Jays suffered two injuries in their Sunday afternoon loss at Cincinnati. Infielder Brett Lawrie will be going on the disabled list after he broke a finger when taking a pitch in the hand.
Outfielder Jose Bautista left the game with left leg tightness and will have an MRI in Toronto today.
The injuries mean inevitable call-ups from the Bisons, who will continue their homestand through Friday.